be able to understand what I write (I think that’s important, and I’m quite sure
Finally, I know that you’ve already looked at the DDT Rating, so you already know
the conclusion: this is a great resource for everyone, regardless of doctrine and
denomination. Now, let us commence with the Review!
Douglas Moo is the next author to publish a commentary on the book of Romans in the
NICNT series. His 1,000 page tome has replaced the two volume edition previously
authored by John Murray. It should be noted that Murray’s commentary was so good,
that Eerdman’s republished it as a stand alone commentary on Romans, and is still
available from the publisher. That’s how good Moo’s work is: it has replaced a classic.
Moo is a leader in the Neo-Evangelical movement. He taught at Trinity Evangelical
Divinity school for twenty years, and is now at Wheaton College. He has served on
the NIV Committee on Bible Translation since 1997. So, his academic credentials are
Moo’s Work in Romans
Moo was initially involved in writing on the Book of Romans for Moody Press. He published
a book that was part of the Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary series on the first 8
chapters of Romans. He intended to write a second volume finishing the book of Romans,
but Moody canceled the Wycliffe series. Since he had a substantial part of the second
volume written, he decided to “shop it,” to see if someone else would be interested
in publishing his work. Eerdman’s was. Very.
The Wycliffe series had been Greek intensive, where the NICNT series is English based.
So, Moo had a lot of work to do. He completely reformatted his Greek Wycliffe commentary
(with permission) to fit the English format of the NICNT. All pertinent Greek information
was still included - but now in the footnotes. He continued that format through all
16 chapters of Romans.
But Moo’s head (and heart) was so full of information on the Book of Romans he wrote
again - not one more book, but two! And they are all different! Whether or not you
agree with what he writes, we can all agree on this: Doug Moo knows the Book of Romans.
Expositional & Doctrinal Overview
Let’s take a look at some of the critical components of a commentary: Expositional
skill of the author, and the Doctrinal grid the author writes with.
Moo pays very careful attention to a proper exposition of Scripture. And with more
than a 1,000 pages, you’ve already figured out that he writes with a tremendous amount
of detail. While the thrust of the NICNT is on the English text, the heart of his
exposition is Greek exegesis. Again, while you may not always agree with his conclusions,
you’ll have to “prove it to yourself” because of his consistency in dealing with
the text. For those unacquainted with the Greek language, the main body of the text
is very accessible. The technical aspects of the Greek work is contained in the footnotes.
While I’m sure it made for a great deal of work on Moo’s part, the final result is
rather pleasing for the reader - and all of the material is still there for the student.
Well done, Mr. Moo!
He does not handle his exposition with any type of allegorical method at all (except
for where the text is obviously allegorical!). His method is historical-grammatical-literal
- a real treat for the expositor.
Just as important as the method a commentary uses to exposit a text is the theological
grid of the author. Every student will want to know what his teacher believes.
First, Moo taught at Trinity/Deefield and Wheaton. Both of those school are thoroughly
Neo-Evangelical. Also, Moo is heavily involved with the NIV. Those facts are leading
indicators of his theology.
The Editor’s Preface states that Moo is both Evangelical and Reformed:
But if this volume in some ways inaugurates a new day for the series, it also has
some strong ties to the past. This series began in a context of evangelical theology
that was also decidedly within the Reformed tradition. It is therefore fitting that
the replacement commentary on Romans in particular, originally written by John Murray
(professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary), should be
written by someone whose theological sympathies lie in this direction.
Moo, though, does not always “stay on the plantation” in the Reformed position. He
is pre-millennial in his eschatology; but his understanding of the Rapture is post-tribulational.
(It should be noted that Romans has very little eschatological teaching in it; so
this topic does not have much direct application to NICNT Romans.) Also, in Romans
9-11, he seems to distinguish between Israel and the Church, which is a key tenet
Now, let me insert a word of warning: Moo is far from a conservative. Consider this
quote about Protestants and Catholics from Rom 3:26-
Despite important and welcome moves toward reconciliation between Protestants and
Roman Catholics, the division between the two groups over justification remains.
In an age that minimizes doctrine, there is a danger that this difference will be
too easily swept under the carpet. But it is a significant one, affecting one’s understanding
of salvation, the sacraments, assurance, and other matters both doctrinal and practical.
That noise you now hear are conservatives (like me) gasping. “Important and welcome
moves toward reconciliation between Protestants and Roman Catholics”? I’d like to
think he’s just kidding; but of course, he’s not. Quotes like that above serve to
emphasize one of the major differences between Neo-Evangelicals and conservative
evangelicals: the practical aspect of separation. So, just be forewarned that those
occasional statements are made by Moo. (Note: what’s odd is that in context, the
above quote has nothing to do with the interpretation/exposition of the text. I guess
he added it to make sure you knew he was a neo- and not a conservative.)
Knowing that Moo is writing from a Reformed position will greatly aid the expositor
in his use of this commentary. Also knowing his lack of separation will allow the
user to be a little wary of his application. I must say, though, as a fundamental
non-Reformed dispensationalist, that using NICNT Romans has thus far been a real
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a commentary sample is worth, well,
what is it worth? Not sure! But here is a representative entry from the commentary.
This one is from Rom 3:24 (please note: the digital text comes from the premium resource
formatted for TheWord Bible Software).
The connection between this verse and the previous verses is not clear. Those who
think a pre-Pauline fragment begins here find in the difficult transition evidence
for a shift from Paul’s original dictation to the citation of a tradition. But whatever
his dependence on tradition, Paul is himself composing the verses, and we need to
determine what connection he intends. The participle “being justified”  is most
naturally taken as a modifier of one or both of the finite verbs in v. 23: “sinned”
and/or “falling short.” If so, Paul’s purpose in highlighting the gift character
of justification in the participial clause would presumably be to provide evidence
for the total religious impotence of humanity.  The objection to this interpretation
is that it gives to a verse (24) that continues the main theme of the paragraph (justification/righteousness)
a relatively subordinate role. Scholars suggest several other ways of relating this
participle to its context,  but perhaps the best suggestion is Cranfield’s. He
argues that “being justified” is dependent on v. 23, to the extent that it has as
its subject “all,” but that it also picks up and continues the main theme of the
paragraph from vv. 21–22a. With this we would agree, with the caveat that “all” in
its connection with “being justified” indicates not universality (“everybody”) but
lack of particularity (“anybody”). Paul’s stress on the gift character of justification
in v. 24 illuminates from the positive side the “lack of distinction” in God’s dealings
(vv. 22b–23) even as it continues and explains the theme of “righteousness by faith”
from v. 22a.
Paul uses the verb “justify” (dikaioō) for the first time in Romans to depict his
distinctive understanding of Christian salvation. As Paul uses it in these contexts,
the verb “justify” means not “to make righteous” (in an ethical sense) nor simply
“to treat as righteous” (though one is really not righteous), but “to declare righteous.”
No “legal fiction,” but a legal reality of the utmost significance, “to be justified”
means to be acquitted by God from all “charges” that could be brought against a person
because of his or her sins.  This judicial verdict, for which one had to wait
until the last judgment according to Jewish theology, is according to Paul rendered
the moment a person believes. The act of justification is therefore properly “eschatological,”
as the ultimate verdict regarding a person’s standing with God is brought back into
our present reality.
Characteristic also of Paul’s theology is his emphasis on the gift character of this
justifying verdict; we are “justified freely  by his grace.”  “Grace” is
one of Paul’s most significant theological terms.  He uses it typically not to
describe a quality of God but the way in which God has acted in Christ: unconstrained
by anything beyond his own will.  God’s justifying verdict is totally unmerited.
People have done, and can do, nothing to earn it. This belief is a “theological axiom”
for Paul and is the basis for his conviction that justification can never be attained
through works, or the law (cf. Rom. 4:3–5, 13–16; 11:6), but only through faith.
 Once this is recognized, the connection between v. 22a and v. 24 is clarified;
that justification is a matter of grace on God’s side means that it must be a matter
of faith on the human side. But the gracious nature of justification also answers
to the dilemma of people who are under the power of sin (v. 23). As Pascal says,
“Grace is indeed needed to turn a man into a saint; and he who doubts it does not
know what a saint or a man is.”
What gives this paragraph its unparalleled significance is the number of perspectives
from which God’s justification of sinners is considered. If “freely by his grace”
indicates the mode of justification, as entirely free and unmerited, “through the
redemption” illumines the costly means by which this acquitting verdict is rendered
possible. “Redemption”  means, basically, “liberation through payment of a price.”
Thus, in the second and first centuries B.C., “redemption” often refers to the “ransoming”
of prisoners of war, slaves, and condemned criminals.  If “redemption” has this
connotation here, then Paul would be presenting Christ’s death as a “ransom,” a “payment”
that takes the place of that penalty for sins “owed” by all people to God.  Though
widely rejected today,  this interpretation of the significance of the word should
be retained.  While it is not clear whether Paul was thinking specifically of
slave manumissions when he applied the word to Christian salvation,  it is likely
that Paul views sin as that power from which we need to be liberated (cf. 3:9). 
If we ask further the question “To whom was the ‘ransom’ paid?” it is not clear that
we need to answer it. The usage of the word makes it clear that there need be no
specific person who “receives” the “payment.” Certainly we are not to think of Christ’s
death as a payment of God made to Satan, a view that became very popular in the first
centuries of the Christian church. A more biblical answer, and one that might be
implied by v. 25, would be that God, the judge who must render just verdicts, is
the recipient of the ransom. If so, an equal emphasis must be placed on the fact
that God is also the originator of the liberating process.
As he does in Eph. 1:7 and Col. 1:14, Paul adds that this redemption is “in Christ
Jesus.” It is not clear whether Paul means by it that the liberation was accomplished
by Christ at the cross or that the liberation occurs “in relation to” Christ, whenever
sinners trust Christ.  Favoring the latter, however, is the connection of “redemption”
with the forgiveness of sins in Eph. 1:7 and Col. 1:14, and 1 Cor. 1:30: “Christ
was made … our redemption.” While, then, the “price” connoted by the word “redemption”
was “paid” at the cross in the blood of Christ, the redeeming work that the payment
made possible is, like justification, applied to each person when he or she believes.
This section is fairly representative as to how Moo handles the text.
A 1,000 page commentary on a 16 chapter Bible book is obviously not written on a
simple level. Not hardly. Some mature in the faith will struggle with the text. It
is written toward the academic, not the casual Bible reader. However, it is an excellent
All in all, Moo’s commentary on Romans is going to rank high on anyone’s scale, no
matter what particular doctrinal filter is applied. Many consider it the best commentary
on Romans ever written. I’ll hold off from going that far. However, I will say, that
no matter what your theological background is, this commentary will do what a good
commentary is supposed to do: help you handle the text. With that in mind, this is
a great commentary suitable for use by all people.
Amazon.com offers 25 reviews (as of Februrary, 2012). Average rating: A Perfect 5.0
stars. Read them here.
Click Here for information other titles in this series
This 1,000+ page commentary on the Book of Romans by Douglas Moo is often regarded
as the single best commentary on the Book of Romans ever written. While I don’t go
that far, it certainly is a Great Resource for Everyone!